Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Grubesic to Dump Some Tea

On Wednesday across the nation there will be a number of "tea parties" -- actually demonstrations organized by critics of the Obama administration.

A news release from the New Mexico Republican Party describes the events: "Americans are banding together across party aisles to voice their opposition to out-of-control government spending in Washington, D.C. These organic uprisings—dubbed `tea parties' after Boston’s famous 1773 American colonist revolt—are springing up across the country."
John Grubesic
The event in Santa Fe, scheduled for 5 pm on The Plaza, features a Republican, former Gov. Gary Johnson, and a Democrat, former state Sen. John Grubesic.

I was surprised when I learned that Grubesic was speaking at the event. Then again, as a senator, he rarely failed to surprise.

He sent me a copy of his speech he's planning to give. And sure enough, this is not the typical anti-tax speech that will be heard at most these events.

He says taxes are necessary and looks forward to the end of the Bush tax cuts. (Now there's an applause line for the tea-party crowd!) He points out that U.S. taxes are low compared to other countries.

"I don’t think the anger of the average American taxpayer is over the fact that we have to pay taxes," the speech says. "I think the anger is based on the fact that Americans get very little bang for their tax buck and what bang we do get is jeopardized by the complete lunacy of those we have elected to act in a fiscally responsible manner. "

And Grubesic takes part of the blame himself for voting last year for the $25-$50 tax rebate checks knowing full well a budget crisis was looming.

Here's a copy of the entire speech. (I split up a few paragraphs to make it a little easier on the eyes.)


I appreciate this opportunity to talk with you. I believe when people come together to talk, regardless of their viewpoint, something valuable occurs. Unfortunately, discussion rarely happens in politics today. Political cowardice, partisan boundaries and our inability to work together is destroying our country.

I am a Democrat. I am a Democrat that recognizes that we have a two party system in the United States. A system that is completely dysfunctional. I believe that 90% of the issues we face in government can be resolved. I also recognize that on the remaining 10% we will never agree.

We are mired in a bi-partisan mess and both parties are responsible for creating the crisis we face. The only way out of this hole is to completely dismantle old time politics, stop electing politicians with the best sound bites and elect leaders willing to stand for something. Finally, we need to stop wasting time on the 10% of politics we will never agree upon.

From what I was told, the tea party movement is fashioned after the Boston Tea Party of 1773. Members of the original tea party were angry because King George III was imposing a tax on tea which they felt was unfair and unjust. The modern day tea party group is angry because they feel our modern day tax system is just as unfair and unjust. I think this anger is misdirected.

I do not enjoy paying tax, but I recognize that tax dollars are necessary for the functioning of a civilized society. When you compare the level of taxes in the United States with other advanced countries, we are getting off pretty easy. Economists do this by looking at the ratio of taxes to gross domestic product, the total output produced in the country.

In the US, all taxes, federal, state and local reached a peak of 29.6% in the year 2000. This number was swollen by taxes on capital gains during the stock market bubble and I think we are closer to 26% today. In Canada the percentage was 38.2%, France was 45.8% and Sweden, 52.2%.

I don’t think the anger of the average American taxpayer is over the fact that we have to pay taxes. I think the anger is based on the fact that Americans get very little bang for their tax buck and what bang we do get is jeopardized by the complete lunacy of those we have elected to act in a fiscally responsible manner.

A politician screaming for tax cuts is more likely to get elected or re-elected and as a legislator I participated in throwing a $50.00 tax cut bone to New Mexicans during the special session this past year. We knew that a budget shortfall was looming, but we did it anyway. We did it because it was an election year and in the political mind a tax-cut, no matter how small, helps to get people re-elected.

Taxpayer anger is rooted in the fact that we can’t get our kids decent public educations, that we can’t get or keep enough cops on the streets, that we are rewarding greed, dishonesty and self interest with bailouts while we fail to give our citizens the basic benefits of a civilized society.

Tax cuts are not the answer and I look forward to the expiration of the tax cuts imposed by President Bush. Tax cuts are partly responsible for our fiscal disaster. You cannot fund government and provide necessary programs without adequate revenue. Tax cuts are tools used to elect politicians in our country and to pay off wealthy campaign donors.

Taxes are the dues we pay for membership in civilized society and that is where the argument is... we need to ask what services are important, what we are willing to pay for them and how government can effectively provide the services we as a society deem necessary. This cannot happen without a painful, honest and critical assessment of how our government has failed and a dynamic response to this failure.

Looking at our federal budget, the big ticket items are Social Security, Medicaid, Medicare, defense, homeland security and payment of interest on our public debt. Throw in the remaining cost associated with the nuts and bolts of government and you realize that the question of where to cut becomes difficult if not impossible.

We would undoubtedly be asking Americans to retire later, pay more Medicaid expenses out of pocket and cut back on Social Security benefits. Not a formula for launching a successful political career, but issues that must be addressed by the people we elect.

The economic success of the United States was built upon the backs of a broad and solid middle class. We have forgotten this. In the movie Wall Street Michael Douglas played a character named Gordon Gekko. Gekko says that “greed is good.” Greed is a disaster, greed is stealing our homes, greed is robbing our children of their dreams. In order to survive we have to come together and face this challenge as a united people.

The gulf between rich and poor has never been wider in our country and if it continues to grow it will lead to our destruction. We have examples in our own hemisphere of countries that have embraced the ideas of the haves and the have mores over the needs of the middle class and the poor with disastrous results.

Our country was founded upon a handful of strongly held beliefs by ordinary people who wanted a new form of government. These simple beliefs have been distorted and have grown into a complicated mass of inefficient, unresponsive bureaucracy. We need to simplify government.

We need to figure out what we value and how we will pay for it and remember that we are a country of equals. Government can be more efficient, but we must focus on the core of government function. We need to feed our families, care for the elderly and sick, educate our kids and keep them safe.

We need to put aside the distractions of partisan politics, focus on real issues and elect officials willing to make tough decisions based upon what is right, not on what the polls, the media or their party tells them to do.

Updated with link to The Santa Fe Tea Party.